Manifesto, Kaori Tsuji
Be an Active Participant, Freedom of Expression and Media Literacy
When I was in elementary school, I used to be obsessed with the TV because it showed me things that I have never known. When I was in middle school, I started using a cell phone. It taught me how to connect with other people. When I was in high school, I got a smartphone, which made me get used not to communicate face to face with other people. I am currently in the college and got a laptop. I am on online almost all day. Despite the fact that these devices are getting more and more complicated, they make my life so much more convenient. I do not need a newspaper or a magazine to know recent news or gossips. I do not have to go shopping at stores anymore. I can talk to multiple friends at the same time via the Internet. These devices provide us more free and useful world. I am sure many people feel the same. In the complexity, however, we are being trapped by the misunderstandings of freedom of the media. I would like to assert two fantasies that we are being led to believe.
First, we consider freedom as a state that we can do whatever we want. One of my classmates from my high school put a naked picture of his friend on Twitter without his friend’s permission. As a result, a lot of people who saw the picture felt uncomfortable and even were offended, and the friendship between him and his friend was destroyed. There was also an incident in Japan that a student committed suicide due to the bully on the Internet. The bullies took advantage of the anonymity of the Internet. On New Year’s Eve, a Japanese famous singer made fun of the honor medal that was from the Japanese emperor on TV, and many people found it as an insult to the emperor. Consequently, he had to apologize in public for his attitude. His reputation has been dragged down after that. How far can we have freedom of expression? I believe one’s freedom should be respected as long as it does not invade others’ rights or does not hurt others, and I believe we all should know that. However, the media can make us forget the common fact, because we tend to forget the small screen of a phone or a laptop is connected with millions of other people. These people that I listed above clearly do not know what they did on their screen could have such impact on others’ lives. Through the filter, we feel like we are free from any restriction, which is totally a lie.
Second, as we are witnessing the evolution of technology, we tend to feel that we are free to get any kind of information through the use of media. Although, we definitely have better accessibilities to a variety of information, and it is so much easier than before, just having those skills does not make you more notified. We all get to try to actively take advantage of it. Glen Greenwald criticizes people because they are just satisfied with a feeling of freedom, and not many people actually go access bunch of database and try to collect as much information as they can. Some people might say that it is fine just to have the option so that those who want to know more can gain more information. However, if people do not actively try to get information on the Internet, the authority would fool those people. It has been manipulating information people receive and the impression people receive from it in the history. Its propaganda system was less intricate in the past, but it takes advantage of the complexity of the media in the current society and shows people an illusion of freedom. For example, Greenwald states that the U.S government concealed information and its lies about the Iraq War to justify to go to the war. Greenwald also warns that there is a disparity of information that people receive depending on where they live because the government chooses what to disclose and what not to. Hence, the government of each country has its own subjective purpose underneath its media and tries to control people’s image of their own country or other countries. Due to the authority’s censorship, people could have hostility toward other countries, and it might end up fighting with them, just like the 9.11 attacks. These are the reasons that I want to emphasize the importance of spontaneity searching more information. We cannot allow the authority to deceive us anymore! It is not easy to transform it, so it is we who have to change to protect our freedom!
To prevent us from being trapped by the myths of freedom in the current society, I would like to declare that we all need a certain education about the use of media. I have taken a class about the use of computers. The class gave me knowledge about the history of technology and softwares or applications in the computers, but it never taught me the dangers of the media. The education in the current society must include not only how to use the media, but also ethics on the media so that people would use the Internet in accordance with the morality. Also, it has to be conducted according to universal curriculum so that a country can change to whatever beneficial for the government. In a way, the education can improve the inequality of access to the media, so it has to be mandatory for all students as well. On the top of that, it has to be done for the purpose of making students aware of the system of the media and its positive and negative sides, letting them have the skills to access the information by themselves, and growing them up as active participants of this digital world. As active participants, we all are required to follow ethics in order to protect others’ freedom and our own’s. If we see someone violating the ethics, we would be required to accuse of whoever the opponent. What if the government violates them like it has done so many times around the world in the history? Suppose only a few of us are active participants and accuse the government for hiding information that people should know and taking away people’s freedom to know, they would be marginalized because the government power is stronger. However, if all of us are active participants, we would be able to submerge the government’s corruption, just like a revolution. I believe being active participants means being free in a true sense. Before we lose our sight in the entanglement, it is the time!